Inspired by the Greek myth of Iphigenia and the Grimm fairy tale "Brother and Sister," Michelle Ruiz Keil's second novel follows two siblings torn apart and struggling to find each other in early '90s Portland. All her life, seventeen-year-old Iph has protected her sensitive younger brother, Orr. But this summer, with their mother gone at an artist residency, their father decides it’s time for fifteen-year-old Orr to toughen up at a wilderness boot camp. When their father brings Iph to a work gala in downtown Portland and breaks the news, Orr has already been sent away against his will. Furious at her father’s betrayal, Iph storms off and gets lost in the maze of Old Town. Enter George, a queer Robin Hood who swoops in on a bicycle, bow and arrow at the ready, offering Iph a place to hide out while she tracks down Orr. Orr, in the meantime, has escaped the camp and fallen in with The Furies, an all-girl punk band, and moves into the coat closet of their ramshackle pink house. In their first summer apart, Iph and Orr must learn to navigate their respective new spaces of music, romance, and sex-work activism—and find each other before a fantastical transformation fractures their family forever. Told through a lens of magical realism and steeped in myth, Summer in the City of Roses is a dazzling tale about the pain and beauty of growing up.
Summer in the City of RosesFeatured
What I liked: This book is unlike anything I have read. While there are some familiar tropes and folkloric elements it also deals with some pretty deep topics:abuse, neglect, identity issues, neurodivergence, homelessness just to name a few. The story flows like a labyrinth full of twists and turns, moments of solid reality mixed with magical fantasy. Michelle Ruiz Keil does a fantastic job handling important topics while keeping the tone of the piece a little bit lighter. Once I was deep into the story it was hard to put down. I didn't want to leave.
What left me wanting more: There were times I felt I needed to know more and was left with questions. There were a few points in the story I had to pause and ask, "What is happening?" This is not unusally for me with magical realism. But, reflecting back on this- this wanting of more made the book a great read as well.
Final Verdict: Magical Realism is still a new genre for me. The story is beautifully written and leaves the reader with some important questions. Overall, a good read with an unusal ending.
Inspired by the Greek myth of Iphigenia and the Grimm Fairy Tale "Brother and Sister"